The charismatic guy with the impeccable dress sense that is Jon Batiste – Oscar- and Bafta-Nominee and Golben Globe Winner, BLM-activist and leader of Stephen Colberts’ Late Show-band is already quite a star in the US, but his new album, “We Are”, will pretty sure make him a household name in Europe, too. Here’s what his record company tells us about him and the new album:
WE ARE represents a completely new sonic chapter for Jon Batiste. Inviting some of the most esteemed creative minds to assist in birthing the album, he reached the finish line smack in the middle of the first wave of the worldwide pandemic and volatile social unrest. The result is a body of work characterized by the consciousness of Marvin Gaye, the grounded optimism of Stevie Wonder, the iconoclasm of Thelonious Monk and the swagger of Mannie Fresh.
Alongside songwriter Autumn Rowe and producer Kizzo, Batiste wrote and planned much of the project in about a week from his dressing room at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. WE ARE was recorded in New York, Los Angeles and in his native New Orleans, melding inspiration from his new home and new collaborators with that of the Batiste musical dynasty. The album was also recorded in between sessions for Disney/Pixar’s 2020 hit film Soul, which saw Batiste’s music — and hands — incorporated into the animation about a teacher who dreams of being a jazz pianist.
On WE ARE, Batiste presents a captivating musical experience to the world rooted in catharsis, joy, freedom, contemplation and sensuality. It’s a love letter to his southern roots and the heritage of Black Music with guest appearances by Mavis Staples, Quincy Jones, Zadie Smith, PJ Morton, Trombone Shorty, St Augustine Marching 100, his father Michael Batiste, grandfather David Gauthier and many more. It is a meditation steeped in the sounds of the times with collaborators including POMO (Anderson.Paak), Ricky Reed (Lizzo), Jahaan Sweet (Drake, Eminem) and others.
“I’m publicly known for some things already,” says Batiste. “But there’s so much more to know about me. It’s always been there. Now is the time to show the world my full artistry. WE ARE is a message of love for humanity, of humble reverence for our past, and of a hopeful future, in which we are the ones who can save us. The art reveals its motive to you. You just have to wait for the Spirit to tell you what it wants.”
ABOUT JON BATISTE
One of the best-known musicians of his generation, virtuoso pianist, singer, bandleader, educator and television personality Jon Batiste has spent his career bringing that music back to where it started — that is, with the people. From his days at Juilliard, where he established his Stay Human band by playing around New York City’s subways and in street performances he called “love riots,” to his work since 2015 as the bandleader and musical director of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, the Kenner, Louisiana native has consistently channeled his superb technical skill and deep knowledge of jazz tradition towards a specific, intentional purpose: making people’s lives better and brighter, one harmonaboard (that’s harmonica and keyboard, combined) solo at a time.
Born into Louisiana’s legendarily musical Batiste family, Jon has performed and recorded widely since his teens. His flexibility as an artist, his fluency in jazz as well as popular music of all stripes, has allowed him to collaborate with legends from Wynton Marsalis, a mentor since his Juilliard days, to Prince — as well as many of the widely-varied artists who appear on the Late Show.
Batiste’s marquee performances have ranged from the Grammy’s, to the Kennedy Center Honors, to the US Open and the NBA All-Star Game — in 2015, Batiste and the Stay Human Band became the first group to play the main stage at both the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals.
Batiste played himself on the HBO series Treme and appeared in director Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer — most recently, his music was featured in the 2020 Disney/Pixar film Soul. Batiste won a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award for his participation in the soundtrack alongside Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and the trio are currently nominated for an Oscar and BAFTA for Best Soundtrack.
He’s been awarded the American Jazz Museum Lifetime Achievement Award, the Harry Chapin ASCAP Humanitarian Award and appeared on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list; Batiste also currently serves as the Music Director of The Atlantic and the Co-Artistic Director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.
Jon Batiste is devoted to the education and mentorship of young musicians. He has led his own Social Music Residency and Mentoring Program sponsored by Chase, as well as master classes throughout the world. He has also led several cultural exchanges, beginning in 2006, while still a teen, with the Netherlands Trust, which brought students from the USA and Holland to perform with him at the Royal Concertgebouw and Carnegie Hall.
Batiste balances a demanding performance schedule with public speaking engagements, masterclasses, brand partnerships, community activism and acting roles. His composing and songwriting will be featured in his large-scale, genre-melding symphonic work “American Symphony,” set to premiere at Carnegie Hall in 2021 and he has been developing a Broadway musical about the life of famed painter Jean-Michel Basquiat.